The Sevier School District Board of Education will bring a defeated leeway tax issue back onto the ballot for the November general election.
At a special meeting of the board, members voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that would place computer student learning systems in classrooms in an effort to improve student learning in reading, writing and mathematics if the measure passes. The district's principals and administrators supported the action.A tax that would have raised about $165,000 locally and $282,000 in state funding for each of the next four years to fund the computer systems lost by only 76 votes in the primary. Board members concluded that a large number of voters were not aware of what the money would be used for and that they thought it was "just another school tax." Superintendent Brent Rock and board members stress the funds would be used only for the computer technology program.
Board President David Blackwell noted that the district has received $192,000 in matching funds from the state for the program but that it can't be used without local matching funds. Without the leeway tax, the district doesn't have the money to finance the program and take advantage of the state funding.
For full participation in the four-year program, the district has until Dec. 1 to pass the leeway tax to provide matching funds. After that date a special election would be required and the district would lose two years of the program, Blackwell said.
Rock presented graphs to board members showing that learning has substantially been improved by students who have used computers in the district.
Board members were astonished that only 2,978 people cast ballots in the leeway issue when 3,565 voted in the same September primary.
Voters in five other districts, one in Monroe and four in the Richfield area, approved the leeway. In Richfield, the support was 48.3 percent, dropping to 25.3 percent in the South Sevier area, 24.6 percent in North Sevier and only 1.8 percent in Koosharem.
Although school district officials are not allowed to campaign for or against the leeway, they are allowed to acquaint school patrons with the facts. The superintendent emphasized district officials "have a responsibility" to do that. Parent-teacher associations and the Sevier Education Association will probably campaign for the leeway, however.
The board also approved placement of an eight-station computer lab in one elementary school in each of the attendance areas. This will be done prior to the election so that the labs may be used for demonstration purposes to better acquaint the public with the proposed program. Stations will be financed from undistributed reserve funds. The money will revert to the fund after the election if the leeway passes.
The eight-station units would be expanded to 32 stations soon after the election if the issue is approved. Technology labs would be placed in all elementary schools in the district, with 32-station labs at four schools and an eight-station lab at another.